Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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I had missed the piece on the 'planted stories' story written by Jonathan Landay of Knight-Ridder, which is unfortunate since he significantly advanced the story.

A few points stood out for me, particularly those relating to potential disinformation blowback ...

Under military rules, information operations are restricted to influencing the attitudes and behavior of foreign governments and people. One form of information operations - psychological warfare - can use doctored or false information to deceive or damage the enemy or to bolster support for American efforts.

Many military officials, however, said they were concerned that the payments to Iraqi journalists and other covert information operations in Iraq had become so extensive that they were corroding the effort to build democracy and undermining U.S. credibility in Iraq. They also worry that information in the Iraqi press that's been planted or paid for by the U.S. military could "blow back" to the American public.


Moreover, the defense and military officials said, the U.S. public is at risk of being influenced by the information operations because what's planted in the Iraqi media can be picked up by international news organizations and Internet bloggers.


In addition to the Army's secret payments to Iraqi newspaper, radio and television journalists for positive stories, U.S. psychological-warfare officers have been involved in writing news releases and drafting media strategies for top commanders, two defense officials said.

On at least one occasion, psychological warfare specialists have taken a group of international journalists on a tour of Iraq's border with Syria, a route used by Islamic terrorists and arms smugglers, one of the officials said.

Usually, these duties are the responsibility of military public-affairs officers.

In Iraq, public affairs staff at the American-run multinational headquarters in Baghdad have been combined with information operations experts in an organization known as the Information Operations Task Force.

The unit's public affairs officers are subservient to the information operations experts, military and defense officials said.

The result is a "fuzzing up" of what's supposed to be a strict division between public affairs, which provides factual information about U.S. military operations, and information operations, which can use propaganda and doctored or false information to influence enemy actions, perceptions and behavior.

Information operations are intended to "influence foreign adversary audiences using psychological operations capabilities," according to a Sept. 27, 2004, memo sent to top American commanders by the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers.

Myers warned that putting public affairs and information operations in the same office had "the potential to compromise the commander's credibility with the media and the public."

There's a lot of good stuff in this piece. And in excerpting portions of it, there's hard to find stuff I don't want to highlight. But there's also seem interesting information about the origins of what happened ...

The payments to Iraqi journalists originally were intended to nurture a fledgling domestic press corps by rewarding Iraqi journalists who put their lives and the safety of their families at risk by attending U.S. military briefings in the high security Green Zone in Baghdad, where American officials live and work.

"These guys had to take extraordinary risk to cover our stories," said a U.S. military officer in the United States who's familiar with the program.

The effort, however, "has gotten out of hand," said an American military official in Baghdad.


"The Iraqis learned that if they reported stuff we liked, they'd get paid, and our guys learned that if they paid the Iraqis, they'd report stuff we liked," the former senior defense official said.

I've excerpted a lot; but there's a good bit more. Go give it a look.

Okay, this is a bit funny -- at least if you're me. Below I posted a link to this company called ADCS. That's Cunningham co-conspirator #1 Brent Wilkes' company.

As we noted below, ADCS's headquarters is for sale. And I have the feeling Wilkes himself may soon to be announcing that he's retiring in order to be able to spend more time in prison.

Now, if you look at the ADCS website, you'll see it's quite snazzy and nicely designed. Only, where are the links? If memory serves when I first looked at this site last summer it was, well ... a normal website, a front end to various info about the company. But as nearly as I can tell there are no links to anything. The whole site is one big 'no comment'.

Seems like Brent Wilkes' (aka Co-conspirator #1) company ADCS, Inc. invested too heavily in Duke Cunningham. Now that Duke's been de-listed, ADCS is on the rocks. According to the local paper, the North County Times, company headquarters -- built in 2003 for $12 million -- is up on the auction block.

If only he'd been the first co-conspirator to cut a deal ...

Another comment on the Duke Cunningham investigation.

I mentioned recently that this story likely led into the Department of Defense. So let me say a bit more about that.

In recent days we've being seeing a lot of stories about various top-secret or 'black' programs being run out of the Pentagon. The reports about fake stories being planted in the Iraqi press are just a single example. I'm told that this matter of top secret Pentagon spending -- stuff free of almost all oversight -- may connect up with the Duke investigation and may reach up higher than we might imagine in the Pentagon.

Not in obvious ways, mind you. I'm not saying higher-ups were on the take. But I've seen hints and evidence from various directions that there may have been some active ignoring of these various scams that Duke and his pals were up to in exchange for help on these other fronts.

After I saw this Sacramento Bee article about Rep. Doolittle (R-CA) and his increasing entanglement in the Abramoff investigation, I went back to our trove of unpublished Team Abramoff emails to see how often Doolittle showed up on the skybox freebie gravy train.

His office did show up, but actually not that often -- certainly not as often as I would have expected, given how tight he apparently was with the Abramoff clique.

Perhaps there was a leadership office or committee he was associated with back in 2000 and that obscures him in the references. But I doubt it. And he's nowhere close to fellow Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) as an Abramoff freebie-meister, for instance.

But what really surprised me was this. As I looked through the emails last night, a name that came up again and again was a staffer in the office of Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) of Rhode Island. That's odd since Abramoff tended to buy into members of the House rather than the Senate, though not exclusively. And Chafee just doesn't strike me as a very choice target for Jack.

Who knew?

As some of you know, our old pal Jim Tobin is set to go on trial for the New Hampshire phone-jamming scam next Tuesday in Concord. And we hear that in a rather uncomfortable development for the GOP, the state's witness list includes the name Terry Nelson. If you don't remember that name, refer back to the DeLay case in Texas.

Arch-phase-out-man Santorum trying to run on record of preserving Social Security? Next to campaign as senate's prime champion of free love?

Ahhh, the seamless global web of mumbojumbo.

As we know now from the LATimes and the NYTimes, the Pentagon is paying an outfit called the Lincoln Group to plant phony stories in the Iraqi press about just how well things are going in Iraq.

Actually, maybe that's a sign of progress since that's how we seem to be running this place too.

In any case, one graf from today's NYT piece is too choice not to reprint ...

Even as the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development pay contractors millions of dollars to help train journalists and promote a professional and independent Iraqi media, the Pentagon is paying millions more to the Lincoln Group for work that appears to violate fundamental principles of Western journalism.

I guess if I had a goatee and a black turtle neck I'd call this the internal contradictions of Bush bamboozlement. And perhaps I should.

But while the DOD is hiring the Lincoln Group, the Lincoln is subcontracting the work to BKSH, the PR firm run by Republican uber-operative and spinmeister Charlie Black.

Actually, if you're looking for phony stories about how well things are going in Iraq, I guess a Republican talking head like Charlie Black might be a pretty good bet. So this might be an example of shrewd government contracting.

And if you wonder what Charlie Black knows about bamboozling Iraqis, don't worry because he must have picked something up when he was working for Ahmed Chalabi before the war.

(ed.note: thanks to TPM Reader LR.)